My daughter does jewelry also, and most of hers are inexpensive
pieces aimed at the teen/young twenties market. We place this at easy
touching level, and they give the kids something to pick up and put
down that is safe for them. I keep more expensive, more delicate
work at a height that doesn’t entice the kids as much. If you keep
anything particularly attractive to kids close to you that will
eliminate a good bit of handling by kids, as they tend to stay
farther from the salesperson.
That said, I really have never had a problem with this. Parents have
generally been very good about talking to kids about looking, not
touching, and I’ve even had older kids say that to younger kids. My
mom used to tell us to hold our hands behind our backs when we went
to museums, etc. and I have on occasion said that to a child having
particular trouble keeping control of his/her hands.
Another thing I have seen one jeweler do was have a cheap “make it
yourself” stringing station to involve kids.
If dirty hands are the trouble, try having some wet wipes on hand,
and the minute a kid reaches for something, be proactive and say
"here, let me clean you hands for you and show you how to properly
examine fine jewelry", and then clean their hands, show them the
piece, explain what it is made of and how and what makes it special.
The kid will either love it and become involved, involving the
parent, or make a quick escape. Either way you have protected your
jewelry and let anyone else in the booth know about your work and how
to handle it correctly.
It is also not at all uncommon to have signs saying that anything
broken or damaged must be paid for, and I know I have seen a cute
one aimed at parents about kids and damage, but can’t remember what
it said. But in a humorous way it let parents know they had better
corral their kids…something about unattended kids would be put to
work or something…sorry I can’t remember!
I do artist residencies in the schools, and sadly have found that
too many parents have NOT taught their children how to behave in any
situation with decorum, manners and control. Nor have they been
taught that their actions will come with consequences. I can’t tell
you how many kids have been floored when I tell them if you do this,
you will be not be permitted to continue today - and then I enforce
it! It is clear they have been taught that grown ups say these things
and don’t mean them. I come as a shock to them! I say it AND mean it.
In that line, perhaps clearly welcoming each child, and stating the
rules and offering a wet wipe up front might help. At least it will
put the parents on notice, and the child on notice that you are
aware of what they are doing!
I’ll be interested to see what everyone else suggests.
Beth in SC who has only one kid, but has a Suburban because she is
so often driving 6 or 7 kids!